Cowboy boots aren’t all thigh-slappin’ frontier fashion – here’s how to wear them every day

Matthew McConaughey wearing cowboy boots in 2013 film Dallas Buyers Club - Maximum Film / Alamy Stock Photo
Matthew McConaughey wearing cowboy boots in 2013 film Dallas Buyers Club - Maximum Film / Alamy Stock Photo

Black T-shirt, black jeans and a scuffed pair of black cowboy boots – the signature look of country music icon Johnny Cash, pictured here in 1964. It’s a darker approach to cowboy style in keeping with his brooding image – although on the cover of his album The Man in Black 1963-1969, he is seen in a thigh-high pair of cowboy waders, showing he wasn’t afraid of a statement look, either.

Johnny Cash on the set of 'The Jimmy Dean Show' on November 20, 1964 in New York City - The Estate of David Gahr
Johnny Cash on the set of 'The Jimmy Dean Show' on November 20, 1964 in New York City - The Estate of David Gahr

Cowboy boots will always be associated with a kind of thigh-slappin’ frontier campness, but their history goes back to Spanish equestrian uniform, which was later adapted by the pioneers of the Gold Rush era.

Of course, the 1960s explosion of spaghetti western films and country music brought them to a wider audience, with Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette singing of love-rat wrongdoin’ in increasingly bedazzled boots. In the 1970s they were uprooted from the frontier to London’s King’s Road – cult cowboy boot specialist R Soles was established in 1973 to cater to the counterculture style renegades of the day.

Dollywood, Dolly Parton in 1987 - John Seakwood
Dollywood, Dolly Parton in 1987 - John Seakwood

They rode over to the pastel streets of Primrose Hill in the ’90s, when the area’s ‘It’ crowd – including Kate Moss, Meg Mathews and Sadie Frost – began wearing them with their miniskirts and Marlboro Lights, subverting the masculinity of the traditional footwear. From there to Glastonbury in the early ’00s, worn with mud-splattered shorts and an artfully dishevelled parka; and today they’re ubiquitous among a Gen Z contingent including Taylor Swift, Gigi Hadid and Lady Gaga.

The hallmarks of a cowboy boot  – the scalloped dip in the front, cut-out leather and embroidery – are made to be seen, and they’ve recently strode the catwalks of Celine, Saint Laurent and Dries Van Noten. But away from high-fashion theatrics, there’s an everyday approach: tucked under a pair of jeans with just a glimpse of their angular toe, they’re less obvious but with a satisfying solidity – as demonstrated by the Princess of Wales.

The Prince and Princess of Wales at The Calgary Stampede Parade, In Calgary, Alberta - Julian Parker
The Prince and Princess of Wales at The Calgary Stampede Parade, In Calgary, Alberta - Julian Parker

Read Lisa Armstrong's article: The high street still holds plenty of gems – if you know where to look